Kathmandu airport tense as EU Commissioner arrives with armed bodyguards

1 May 2015 4:13 PM AEST: The international airport at Kathmandu was on edge yesterday, 30 April, as a high ranking European Union official landed at Nepal’s only international airport with bodyguards armed with ‘ultra-modern weapons’.

Nepal Earthquake
Commissioner Christos Stylianides who was denied the request to enter Nepal with armed bodyguards.

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides had arrived in Nepal to take stock of the rescue and relief operations of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit the country on April 25.

Authorities in Nepal knew about his impending visit but they were put on alert when they sighted the armed bodyguards of the VIP.

According to a local Nepali-language newspaper, the environment at the airport had become ‘uncomfortable’ with a ‘dispute’ over the armed security officers of Mr Stylianides.

The situation calmed down when the Commissioner agreed to ‘deport’ the armed bodyguards. The EU official initially demanded that he be allowed to enter the country along with his armed bodyguards which the security agencies at the Tribhuvan International Airport refused to accept, Annapurna Post reported.

The two armed EU men were stopped from leaving the immigration zone of the airport.

According to Deputy Inspector General of Nepal Police Bijaylal Kayastha, who is in-charge of the airport security, the armed security officers were barred from entering Nepal because they had not acquired pre-permission to enter with arms.

Nepal Eearthquake
Christos Stylianides at the historic Durbar Square area which has been badly damaged by the April 25 earthquake.

Any VIPs scheduled to arrive with armed security officers are required to secure written consent from Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs. Even then, the Ministry directs the airport security to inspect and secure the arms at an airport facility. They are returned when the VIPs depart the country.

Annapura Post said Rensje Teerink, the EU ambassador to Nepal, struggled to diffuse the situation that arose when local officers asked for formal permits granting entry with arms, which they did not have. Mrs Teerink, who was at the airport to welcome Mr Stylianides, said the permit could not be obtained because of time-constraints as the process to obtain the permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs would have to go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggesting it would have taken considerable time to complete the bureaucratic process.

When the Nepali authorities refused to budge, the visitors began looking at return flights for the guards to go back to New Delhi. However, it was ultimately agreed that the Nepalese Army would retain the arms at the airport and the bodyguards would  then be allowed to enter the country with the VIP.

A day after the earthquake, the Commissioner Stylianides had issued a press statement promising help for Nepal, “I have mobilized all resources of the European Commission for emergency response to the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal yesterday. The European Union is there to help when disaster strikes, no matter where.”

Few VIPs from the international community are scheduled to inspect various parts of the devastated Himalayan nation today. Reports suggest they are duet to fly around on helicopters of the already under-resourced Nepalese Army.

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